One of our favorite local zoos in the Philadelphia area is the Elmwood Park Zoo. It is a very walkable and approachable spot, and many of the paths are wheelchair and stroller accessible. As a side note that there are slopes and hills in the park and paths, so just be aware of that as well. Personally, I really liked the layout of the area because it was very easy to navigate, and I could walk it pretty well, even with my current ankle sprain injury. Another factor that makes this location a perfect spot for a day trip is the ample free parking in a lot right beside the zoo itself, and they also do have restrooms on location.
The Elmwood Park Zoo is also the first zoo in the world to earn certification as a Certified Autism Center, and they accomplished this in May of 2018. This spectacular award is given by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), and is provided to unique organizations that completed a training and review process with the goal of better serving individuals with sensory needs and autism. This zoo does have a dedicated quiet space, and even planters with fidget spinners to keep guests occupied. They even provide quiet mornings that are available for guests to enjoy the zoo in a more relaxed setting before it opens to the general public. I love how inclusive this zoo is, and you can tell that they really try to make it a great experience for everyone.
To give you a little history of this place, Elmwood Zoo was founded in 1924 after a private landowner donated a small piece of property and a handful of white-tailed deer to the Borough of Norristown. After this exchange, it was run in the 1920s by the Borough as a division of Elmwood Park and some of its animals included raccoons, rabbits, monkeys, bears, deer, and even peacocks! Over time, the zoo expanded and also provided more natural exhibits for the comfort of the animals living there. The Norristown Zoological Society became an official non-profit organization in 1977, and then assumed control of the Elmwood Park Zoo from the Borough of Norristown. Currently, it is estimated that about half a million people visit annually, and even though they are always improving and expanding, it works to maintain much of its history as well.
On the day that we went, we were very excited, because not only were we going to see the magnificent animals at this zoo, we were going to feed giraffes as well! (You will want to check the website ahead of time for these feedings because they are only during dedicated times. We arrived about 20 minutes early to get in line for this, and we were glad that we did because it is a very popular event at the zoo. They have so many other neat events as well where you can feed different animals, and I will link their website at the bottom of the page, so that you can get the most up to date information for them. The events do change with the seasons and time of year.)
After we got in a line for the giraffe feeding, we started to go up to a platform where they were awaiting their snacks! We each were given some lettuce to feed them, and there were 3 giraffes waiting for us. They seemed to know the drill quite well, and they swooped in for their food. I was lucky enough to get a photo of them at the platform, and this was an experience that I highly recommend. They were so sweet, tall, and elegant, and I loved their big eyes and lashes!
After feeding the giraffes, we meandered around the zoo, and encountered a variety of animals. Some of the enclosures are outside, and you will find several inside as well as you make your way around the park. I thought that it was pretty neat that some are a combination with the visitors being inside, but the actual area that the animal is in is more opened up to the outside with shaded areas for them to enjoy as well. One region that was like this was the big cat area where you could see cougars.
Some of our favorite outside exhibits were of the prairie dogs (their area was called “William’s Prairie Dog Town” which was really cute), and also the porcupine areas. We were lucky to see one really up close! This zoo in particular has a focus on North-American and also South-American animals which is really neat.
If you are feeling really adventurous when you visit the zoo, they also have a “Treetop Adventures” area for families. While we did not do this activity, we did see a lot of people there, and it features over 50 challenge games and also ziplining that goes up to 50 feet above the ground in the trees of the zoo. Currently, it is Pennsylvania’s only ropes course with zip lines over animal exhibits. Reservations for this activity are required, and they highly recommend purchasing this online before you arrive. It looked like a really fun activity if you really want to get into the environment and see the zoo from different vantage points.
The Elmwood Park Zoo has so many amazing educational and volunteer programs as well. They have various field trip opportunities for schools, teacher resources, homeschool workshops, scout programs, distance learning programs, zoo camps, and so much more. If you are interested in learning about wildlife, I highly suggest that you check these out. They are also amazing for children and provide them with opportunities to really learn about the environment, conservation, and how we can help the animals that live in these environments. Honestly, I think at any age its a great idea to keep educating ourselves on how to impact our Earth in a positive manner, and each of us truly do make a difference!
I highly recommend this zoo if you are visiting the Philadelphia area. It really is a great day trip spot, and I would estimate that is takes about 45 minutes to several hours to go through it, depending if you stop at each of the exhibits. The area is really clean and well taken care of, and everyone there is very friendly and knowledgeable too! Let me know in the comments if you have visited this location, and what you thought of it. I hope that you are having a wonderful day, and remember to click that subscribe button!
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-For Additional Reading
If you are traveling to the Pennsylvania region, and are interested in learning about its history, a really amazing resource is the book “Pennsylvania A History of the Commonwealth” by which is edited by Randall M. Miller and William Pencak. It is so informative, and reviews the history of our state, in addition to the geography, architecture, archaeology, art history, and even stories of folklore and folklife that are specific to this area.
I personally recommend this book if you are planning a trip to Pennsylvania, or even if you are just interested in learning about the state in general. If you would like to check it out, click on the link below!
If you would like to check out the full list of travel books that I recommend make sure that you check out this comprehensive guide!
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